Sullivan County Schools

BLOUNTVILLE — The idea of keeping the Sullivan South name on the building to become a middle school next school year may undergo another Board of Education vote next month.

But to be successful it would require two board members to join the two other members who supported the idea back in January.

Although the Sullivan County Schools last month voted to name the new middle school at South Sullivan Heights Middle, based on committee recommendations and a public online vote among three choices, a South parent and graduate has gathered more than 650 signatures on a change.org petition asking the school board revisit the issue.

“We will be working all weekend to push for more signatures. We will close out and send to the board Monday at the latest,” Ria Hardy Rigney said on Friday of the online petition, which as of mid-afternoon Friday had draw 652 signatures.

WHO WILL SPONSOR VOTE ON REVOTE?

County school board member Mark Ireson of Colonial Heights and board member Paul Robinson of Bloomingdale were the two board members who at the Jan. 7 board meeting supported a second online survey between the options of South Middle and Sullivan Heights.

Ireson said he or Robinson likely would sponsor the revote.

“It can be done if one of them makes the motion and the other one seconds it,” board Chairman Randall Jones of Indian Springs said on Friday. However, if the motion to reconsider the Sullivan Heights names doesn’t get a four-vote majority, Jones said it would again fail.

The Jan. 7 motion to have a second online vote between Sullivan Heights and Sullivan South middle schools failed 2-5, and the approval of Sullivan Heights was approved 5-2. Jones at that meeting said he supported the process of the committee doing the survey and then making recommendations based on the survey to the school board.

Robinson’s district includes North Middle/High, while Ireson’s includes North High.

“My understanding is yes, I can bring it back up. I think there’s too many signatures not to,” Ireson said. “As far as who will make the proposal, I don’t know which of us will.”

WHAT HAS HAPPENED SO FAR WITH SULLIVAN HEIGHTS?

Sullivan Heights Middle already has an website and social media presence, but Rigney said she plans to submit the latest roster of petition signatures to the board by Monday and ask the board put the revote on its March 4 regular meeting agenda. The board will have a non-voting work session Feb. 25.

“We are asking the board to reconsider the name change. We have sent it to all board members and hope they will all agree to re-review,” Rigney said in an interview through Facebook Messenger on Friday.

“I do not know who, if anyone will bring this back up. I know we have support from both the members from North and South, but we need more to really get anywhere with this. My understanding is they would have to re-vote on the Sullivan Heights and that would have to not pass, then they could bring a motion for a new vote on the two names — but I also haven’t been able to get clarification — that’s just my understanding based on the meeting.”

Rigney said she graduated from Sullivan South in 2004, and has four children in the county school system, one in high school, one middle school and two elementary.

Rigney said she wanted everyone involved in the process of a possible revote to keep two things in mind:

  1. “While we have received support from 2 board members — we do not know if this will be brought back up for discussion/vote. But we hope all board members will support another vote.
  2. “We are not trying to undo or criticize the committee that presented the new names. They worked extremely hard on the new branding, we just feel North and South should have had a choice on combining the schools. The new vote would allow us to make that choice. If a vote is granted, we will all support the name the community selects.”

WHY NOT SOUTH MIDDLE?

Director of Schools David Cox has said the committee recommendation and community vote were based on the merger of Sullivan North Middle, Colonial Heights Middle and the middle school portion of Sullivan Gardens K-8 into the new middle school to be housed at the current South building.

Immediate past Director Evelyn Rafalowski facilitated the committees for renaming Sullivan Central and Sullivan South to middle schools. South Middle was considered in initial committee discussions, Cox said.

Sullivan Central High, which will be the new home of a merger of Holston Middle, Innovation Academy housed inside Holston Middle and Blountville Middle, was renamed Sullivan Central Middle.

All middle school students feeding into Central Middle would have gone to Central High. However, North middle students would have gone to North High while Colonial Heights and Sullivan Gardens K-8 students to South High.